Sixteen days to the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for the repair of its runway, everything is being done to get the Kaduna Airport, where flights will be diverted, ready. Agencies are mobilising to fix the safety and operational facilities in Kaduna to conform with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards before March 8. Aviation Correspondent KELVIN OSA OKUNBOR takes a look at how ready the airport is against the set date.
CAN the government deliver the new Kaduna Airport terminal for international flights in 16 days?
This is the question agitating the minds of experts and stakeholders.
They insist that to ensure feasible international operations there, the airport must not fall short of the prescribed standards of adequate runway length, perimeter fencing, fire cover, adequate facilitation and security personnel – set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Unless these facilities are in place, ICAO insists, international flights to any airport will not be okayed.
These requirements are of concern because of the planned six-week closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from March 8, to enable contractors carry out major repairs on its runway.
During the closure, Abuja flights will be diverted to Kaduna until the runway’s reconstruction is completed.
To meet the deadline, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), among others, have been mobilising to ensure thatthe Kaduna Airport terminal is completed.
Beyond the completion of the terminal building, the agencies have been working to ensure that relevant airport and air navigation facilities are available for the expected passenger traffic.
During a tour of the airport last week, Kazeem Keji, Project Engineer for Dari Investment Limited, the contractor handling the job, said the project was 92 per cent completed and would be ready by the end of the month.
He said the major component of the project had been completed, adding that the fittings, lighting and the ceiling would be fixed this week.
“We are not looking at March 8, 2017; our deadline for completion is February ending and we are going to finish it. We have done the major part of the project. It is only the fittings that are expected to be delivered this week after which the ceilings will be fixed,” he said.
In an interview, last week in Kaduna, Airport Manager Hajiya Amina Ozi-Salami said the airport was ready for the expected traffic surge.
Hajiya Ozi-Salami said the runway was in good condition, adding that the capacity of the airport has been enhanced to accommodate more aircraft.
She said the lighting of the runway would be completed during the week as well as the requisite manpower needed to run the show during the period. The fire and safety equipment, as well as the navigational equipment of the airport are being upgraded in line with the ICAO regulation, she added.
“We are going to boost the manpower by deploying staff from Abuja to Kaduna and we are bringing in 40 fire and safety staff, in addition to 57 security staff.
“The management has been making efforts to stop villagers around the airport from tresspassing and the state government has started working on the vandalised portion of the perimeter fence, adding that with the synergy among the security agencies, the issue of security has been taken care of.”
Also, the Head, Fire and Safety Department, Abubakar Danladi, said three fire tenders were on ground, while others were being repaired. He added that the authority would provide new ones to help them to attain “Category 9”.
We are expecting more support from Abuja with more manpower, Danladi, said.
An Air Traffic Controller, Jatau Nehemiah, said the communication equipment and other navigational aids were being deployed for effective operation during the period. He said more equipment was being installed, assuring that the facilities would be enough to cater to various aircraft.
Also, Committee on Kaduna Airport Construction Chairman Mohammed Joji said modern air navigation facilities, including instrument landing systems, with three components had been installed at the airport, pointing out that the new terminal with 750-passenger capacity was designed to cater for foreign carriers that would fly into Kaduna.
International carriers expected to divert their flights to Kaduna include Lufthansa, Air France, Air Cote D’ Ivoire, AskyAirlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates and Kenyan Airlines.
Joji listed domestic carriers expected to fly into Kaduna to include: Arik Air, AZMAN Air, Aero, Dana Air, Air Peace, Medview, First Nation and Overland Airways.
He said the Kaduna Airport was being rejigged to cater for the 16 carriers, as relevant facilities have been restructured at its land and air sides.
On the preparedness of Kaduna Airport to handle wide bodied aircraft, Joji said: “The airport is set for the expected flights. The question this throws up borders on the structure of the runway, which has 3000metres length and 60 meters width.
“This is sufficient to handle a wide body aircraft. If the need arises, an additional facility called blast pad of 300 meters could be provided at each end of the runway. This is with the full complement of navigational and landing aids, which are already provided for category two instrument landing system.”
Investigations revealed that low- level wind shear alerting system has been provided with full lighting of the runway as well as Category 9 fire cover.
But, to get the airport fully ready, experts said, some dilapidated and skeletal edifices must be reworked to conform with international standards.
An expert, who pleaded not to be named, said: “Additional check- in counters must be provided with internet connectivity to enhance passenger processing by various airlines.
“The charge at the tollgate must be discontinued to enhance facilitation due to expected increase in traffic into the airport. The un-completed car park must be rehabilitated, in addition to putting in place a full- fledged cargo warehouse.
“There should be a full-fledged catering service to relieve airlines of the cost of back-up supply of food. There should also be 24-hour Customs and Immigration services’ facilities at the airport. These should also include adequate FAAN security personnel empowered to carry out their duty effectively.”
They also said the dilapidated FAAN staff quarters should be renovated for support staff who would be deployed to the airport.
Investigations revealed that NAMA is upgrading and mobilising its air facilities to ensure seamless flights and provision of advisory services.
The agency said it had started upgrading navigational facilities at the airport to absorb the increased volume of traffic.
Speaking in Lagos, NAMA’s General Manager, Safety Management Systems/Quality Assurance, Matthew Lawrence Pwajok, said the agency “is deploying both equipment and personnel to strategic areas of need to ensure seamless flow of traffic at the airport”.
He said NAMA had started the installation of a digital instrument landing system (ILS) at the airport, which would undergo flight calibration along with the Very High Frequency Omni-directional Radio Range (VOR) to ensure their accuracy.
“NAMA is also conducting a safety assessment of the Kaduna airport to ensure that it conforms to international safety standards, just as new equipment is being procured for the control tower under construction. In addition, a mobile control tower is to be deployed to the airport to support the existing tower already in use.
“Abuja radar is also going to be used to provide radar surveillance of traffic moving in and out of Kaduna to provide safety and efficiency of flight operations, new generating sets are to be installed to provide secondary power supply to the navigational aids,” Pwajok said, adding, “cooling systems are to be installed soon.”
He said the agency had deployed to the airport some facilities, including low-level wind shear alerting and cooling systems.
Besides, he said Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures for satellite-based navigation capability had been published for aircraft equipped to use it for approach and landing, rather that the ground aids.
On personnel, the safety management systems manager said aeronautical information services (AIS), communications, air traffic control, engineering officers and some other complement the manpower at the airport throughout the closure.
From a security point of view, experts have canvassed the installation of street lighting at the junction towards the roundabout leading into the airport.
The expert said: “The sharp bend leading to Kutungare village, which is a blind spot must be straightened to avoid collision due to the increase of traffic along the road.
“Aviation fuel must be provided round the clock and an enabling environment should be provided also for additional fuel marketers coming into Kaduna. This is because bigger aircraft use their under wing compartment for re- fueling . This makes it imperative to ensure such provision is made.’’